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Bolivia's new leader seeks quick vote, foes plan disruptions

Credit: REUTERS/CARLOS GARCIA RAWLINS

Bolivia's new interim president pledged on Wednesday to hold a new election as soon as possible and condemned "revenge" acts by disgruntled supporters of fallen leader Evo Morales who resigned after protests over a disputed vote.

By Gram Slattery and Miguel Lo Bianco

LA PAZ, Nov 13 (Reuters) - Bolivia's new interim president pledged on Wednesday to hold a new election as soon as possible and condemned "revenge" acts by disgruntled supporters of fallen leader Evo Morales who resigned after protests over a disputed vote.

Senate vice-president and conservative Jeanine Anez, 52, assumed the interim role on Tuesday with a Bible in her hand after Morales took refuge in Mexico following the end of his 14-year socialist rule of the poor Andean nation. L2N27S0G0

"God bless you and allow us to be free and to hold transparent elections soon," she tweeted on Wednesday in a message to the country's youth.

Her arrival at the presidential palace faces an immediate challenge from lawmakers loyal to Morales who hold a majority in parliament and have threatened to hold a rival session to nullify her appointment.

After weeks of violent protests over alleged election rigging and then Morales' resignation, the highland capital La Paz was calmer on Wednesday, with people hoping that the interim government could restore order.

"It seems she is going to act in a fair way and will get us out of this mess," said Jose Clarens.

In 48 hours of turmoil at the weekend, mutinous police climbed on stations and joined marches, allies deserted Morales, the Organization of American States (OAS) declared his re-election was manipulated, and the military urged him to quit.

Bolivia's crisis has divided international reaction, with left-wing allies echoing Morales' allegations of a coup, and others cheering his resignation as good for democracy.

Conservative-led Brazil and Britain congratulated Anez.

"We look forward to working with her and Bolivia's other civilian authorities as they arrange free and fair elections as soon as possible," added Michael Kozak, U.S. assistant secretary of state for western hemisphere affairs, on Twitter.

MORALES SUPPORTERS RALLY

Anto-Morales protesters say pressure had built to a point of no-return after increasing evidence of tampering with the October vote, and that he had gone against the will of the people by seeking a fourth term.

But the Bolivian leader stayed defiant from Mexico, promising to keep up the political fight.

At home, local news footage showed crowds of Morales supporters marching near the center of La Paz and in nearby El Alto city.

Many held the multi-colored Whipala flag, a symbol of regional native groups that gained prominence under Morales who was beloved by the poor when he took power in 2006 as Bolivia's first indigenous president.

"The president is there without any support from the social base," said Ruth Moscoso, selling bread in La Paz.

"She does not represent the people, but the big elites, the society that has money but does not represent the poor."

Bolivia's largest union threatened a widespread strike unless politicians could restore stability, while a coca farmers' union official and a lawmaker close to Morales called for protests until he returned to finish his mandate in January.

Anez entered the older "Burned Palace" presidential building on Wednesday, which Morales had stopped using considering it a discredited symbol of past power.

"What a shame revenge continues," she said in a tweet to one lawmaker who said his house had been attacked by supporters of Morales' Movement for Socialism (MAS).

Timeline of events in Bolivia https://tmsnrt.rs/2qLP4NK

(Reporting by Gram Slattery, Daniel Ramos, Miguel Lo Bianco and Monica Machicao in La Paz; Writing by Adam Jourdan; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne)

((adam.jourdan@thomsonreuters.com; +54 1155446882; Reuters Messaging: adam.jourdan.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net))

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